EMDR as a Special Form of Ego State Psychotherapy

The similarities and differences between Ego State Therapy and EMDR are summarized in the following tables:


Concepts and Techniques Ego State Therapy EMDR
Identify and amplify the problematic ego state by intense focusing on ego state components. Focuses more on affective, somatic, and imagistic components, but focuses on cognitive when relevant Focuses more on cognitions, but uses other ego state components as well
Facilitate associational linkages derived from the ego state infrastructure by encouraging spontaneous associations. Therapist looks for subtle shifts and amplifies them. Associations come spontaneously during EMDR alternations
Facilitate an ego state shift from the problematic, stuck ego state to a more adaptive ego state. Therapist asks, “What needs to happen to get relief?” Associations often come spontaneously during EMDR. Cognitive ego state components are emphasized.
Provide structure directing patient toward new ego state associations when satisfactory spontaneous associations fail to occur. Therapist uses imagistic content or knowledge of ego state system to direct patient’s process. (Ego State Interweave) Primarily cognitive ego state associations are encouraged. (Cognitive Interweave)
Resolve overt or covert conflicts perpetuating an impasse by reducing the dissociative barriers between the conflicted ego states. Uses imagistic internal dialog to reduce dissociation and to facilitate integrative process, among all relevant ego states and using all relevant ego state components Uses cognitive interweave supported by alternating hemispheric stimulation to resolve and integrate conflicting ego states without explicitly identifying all parties to the conflict


Ego State Therapy EMDR
Offers a general theory of personality and psychopathology to inform the therapeutic process, particularly during impasses Offers a specific technique, modified through accumulative clinical experience to inform therapeutic process, particularly during impasses, without a general theory of personality or psychopathology
Uses hypnotic techniques to undo dissociative barriers EMDR generally spontaneously bypasses dissociative barriers.
Uses imagistic/affective corrective emotional experiences to facilitate development and integration of new neuronal associational pathways Alternating hemispheric visual, auditory, or tactile stimulation appear spontaneously to facilitate development and integration of new neuronal associations.

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